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 The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery (c. 2006)

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PostSubject: The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery (c. 2006)   Thu 19 Mar 2009, 7:47 pm

I should probably get out more and read less, but I feel lost without a book by my side! I actually am going to Paris soon (which is totally getting out), so what better than a Parisan novel to get me in the mood.

Okay, this one is #15 on the paperback trade fiction on the NY Times list this week. I initially just looked into it because of the unusual title and the cute cover (the little girl looks like my niece Zoe!).

This is a French novel, recently translated, about a friendship ~ between a 13-year-old girl (Paloma) and a cantankerous concierge (Renee) and her cat Leo. After a bit of research, apparently, this was a huge hit in Europe with readers and critics alike. I hesitated reading too much about it though (kind of ruins the fun), and just through I'd plunge on in.



Review to follow.

Carolyn
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PostSubject: Review of The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery (c. 2006)   Mon 23 Mar 2009, 2:49 pm

Review of The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery (c. 2006)

This is a tough book to review because it's almost like two books in one. I had a very difficult time getting through the first 1/3 of the book, it being philosophical ruminations from two viewpoints, Paloma (a brilliant but damaged 12-year-old girl) and Renee (a 54-year-old "closeted" intellectual who works as a concierge in Paloma's building) ~ in Paris. The early chapters are devoted to very scathing diatribes about the rich, the shallow and the idiotic. It almost read like a French Confederacy of the Dunces with everyone being a fool but the narrators. Slowly, that changes over the course of the novel and at about the time a new unit owner, a Japanese gentleman, Kakuro, enters the scene, there is a HUGE shift. I nearly put this book down for good at page 167, so irritating the philosophy and "go nowhere" it was. But once the shift occured, I began to feel both pity and kindess for Paloma and Renee, as their stories began to flesh out. Also, in the second half a small plot develops and the friendships amongst the tenants become some of the most beautiful moments in recent literary history ~ those a bit different finding solace in each other, a cup of tea, cats, art and flowers. The end is unusual and it does all comes together. I did not rate this book higher because of that first part. It takes too long to come together, but when it does, it is excellent. Also, it takes so long to get good and then it does and it ends! After the friendships developed, I would have loved more. One thing that is certain is this is a talented author (and the translation suburb). It can be choppy in parts, but some of the observations and language so beautiful and profound, I did stop and reflect. So if you hang in there, you will be rewarded and then some. Recommended for a tenatious reader who likes something very much off the beaten (United States) path.

3 out of 5 stars

Carolyn
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